Published: 11th October 2017
Because learning should be Chimple: How storytellers and artists can help kids read and write
Bengaluru-based startup Chimple was also one of the few to get their hands on Elon Musk’s one million dollars at the Global Learning XPRIZE competition
Learning should be fun. Perpetuating his concept, Chimple, a self-funded organisation, is providing scalable solutions to enable children to teach themselves basic reading, writing and arithmetic within 15 months. It is building various platforms for teachers, artists and storytellers to contribute and collaborate on learning solutions to develop a crowd-sourced literacy solution. Their team comprises of experts in game development, data science and animation and has developed an engaging way to impart literacy. We caught up with Srikanth Talapadi, Team Lead to chat about the organisation and its future prospects. Excerpts:
So why the name Chimple?
We were inspired by Mahatma Gandhi's approach to simplicity. Since our solution will be used by children who do not yet know how to read and write, we wanted our software to be very simple - so simple that a child who has never seen a mobile or tablet should be able to interact and start learning from it. Another key motto of ours is that learning should be fun. And what can be more fun than a chimpanzee? We combined these two concepts - ‘chimpanzee’ and ‘simple’, and well, that's Chimple.
How many children have you impacted and how?
An estimated 250 million children around the world cannot read, write or do basic arithmetic. Many of these children are in developing countries without regular access to schools or teachers. Traditional models of education such as building schools and staffing them with trained teachers are not scalable. We simply cannot build enough schools or train enough teachers to meet the demand. We need a new approach; one that will make sure quality education will be imparted to every child, regardless of location or economic status. Chimple addresses this need by providing an autonomous literacy learning environment on a tablet. A child can teach herself how to read, write and do basic arithmetic using our application on a software in her own time.
To enable literacy content in any language, culture and country, we will be creating a Wikipedia-style literacy portal. Teachers, storytellers and artists from anywhere in the world will be able to collaborate and create content which will then be freely available for children in their community
Srikanth Talapadi, Team Lead at Chimple
Currently, our software has been under testing. We have piloted it in a Kannada-medium school in rural Bengaluru and in a Swahili-medium school in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. In each school, about 18 children have been using our software to learn basic reading and writing. In a couple of months, the XPRIZE Foundation will be distributing our software on their tablets to about 400 children in rural Tanzania. This will be our biggest test pilot and we are very excited to be a part of it.
We believe that traditional methods of learning are on their way out. Imagine a future where every child has access to the same high-quality education. The primary enabler of this democratisation is the mobile device along with the technology that can get loaded onto it. Our technology will act as a window through which the child can view the external world. This technology will shape their learning and make sure that each child gets individual attention and customised learning based on their specific needs and wishes. A common problem in classrooms is that the class moves at a certain pace, whereas many kids fall behind and many get bored because the pace is too slow. But with technology, each child will experience personalised learning, which will lead to optimal education.
Aim high: XPRIZE, that is a non-profit organisation looking to design and implement innovative competition models, recognised Chimple's work
Your platform recently received $1mn from Elon Musk. How are you planning to utilise it?
We are very thankful for the finalist award of $1mn from Elon Musk. We have invested heavily in our operation for the past two years. We will recoup some of that cost from the $1mn. We will also be expanding our reach into rural schools by loading our software onto tablets and making them available to children. We plan to distribute a thousand tablets to children loaded with our software and monitor the learning. We will use these results to further improve our software.
We are firm believers in the power of the crowd. So, to enable literacy content in any language, culture and country, we will be creating a Wikipedia-style literacy portal. Teachers, storytellers and artists from anywhere in the world will be able to collaborate and create content which will then be freely available for children in their community.
What is gamification of learning?
Gamification of learning is an approach to motivate students to learn by introducing gaming elements in learning environments. The objective of this approach is to maximise the enjoyment of the learner by grabbing their attention and then, continue to hold or even increase the interest by unfolding the educational content like a game. Gamification, broadly defined, is the process of defining the elements that make games fun and motivate players to continue playing, and using those same elements in a non-game context to influence behaviour. Some simple elements used to gamify learning are points/badges/leaderboards, challenges on an increasing level, social connection and control by the player.